Two bills passed by the state legislature this March will affect transportation in Utah, SB 123, Runaway Vehicle Ramp Requirements and HB 272, Traffic Signal Amendments. Both of these bills help to relieve traffic and make roads safer in Utah.

I-70 Runaway Truck Ramp

Runaway truck ramp on eastbound I-70 in Emery County.

SB 123, prohibits a person from using a runaway vehicle ramp unless the person is in an emergency situation requiring use of the ramp to stop the person’s vehicle; and prohibits a person from stopping, standing, or parking on a runaway vehicle ramp or in the pathway of a runaway vehicle ramp.

These ramps save lives by stopping vehicles, particularly semi-trucks, that have lost their brakes or are unable to slow down. When the ramps are blocked by vehicles-not using it for its intended purpose- runaway vehicles are left with very few safe options in stopping their vehicles. Not only is the driver in danger but the runaway vehicle puts many other motorists in danger. This bill will help to ensure that runaway trucks have a safe place to stop if their truck is unable to slow down.

HB 272, provides that under certain circumstances an operator of a vehicle facing a steady red arrow signal may cautiously enter the intersection to turn left from a one-way street into a one-way street.

Under this bill, motorists may only make this left turn on a solid red light when a sign at the intersection indicates that it is legal. Drivers are still required to stop at the red light and yield to oncoming traffic before cautiously entering the intersection, similar to any turn made on a red light. This bill, although not specifically designed for diverging diamond interchanges (DDI), will make these intersections more efficient and will allow traffic to move more quickly and safely.

May 1st, 2013

Telling a Story

No Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

UDOT is using state-of-the-art mapping tools help communicate important information to road users.

Amanda Holm views the Top Ten Story Map.

Amanda Holm views the Top Ten Story Map.

Every spring, UDOT gives road users heads-up on road work by announcing the top road construction projects that may cause travel delay throughout the summer. Communicating the location and duration of those projects was made easier this year because of Geographic Information Tool that uses maps to communicate project details.

UDOT’s Geographic Information System team used the UPlan Map Center  to build a road construction story map that integrates several maps on an interactive web page. The result is a one-stop information site for ten of UDOT’s most high-impact road construction projects.

New GIS technology lets UDOT put map creation tools in the hands of many users where only analysts had access previously.  The UPlan Map Center site allows users to build a custom map, or several maps, quickly and easily. Those maps can then be combined to create a story map that can be viewed in a browser, shared on a blog or embedded in a website.

Better partnering

Maps are a good way to visually define project scope, see trends in space and time, and communicate with work groups or stakeholders. Grouping several maps together can help communicate a more complete story – such as where and when to anticipate road construction.

But road construction project details are not the only information that can be represented on maps. Basically, any feature that can be seen through a windshield while driving on a state route can be represented on a map. Signs, pavement, signals, culverts, all components of the state transportation system, can be mapped.

Other spatial data sets available on the UPlan site include crash data, which lists the number of crashes for each road segment, and crash severity and type, and Average Annual Daily Traffic, which lists level of traffic on state routes.

Cycling MapUDOT’s website currently features a Road Respect Story Map that shows a cycling map series. Together, the maps provide a great resource for cyclist to find popular cycling routes, information on cycling infrastructure, and even rules cyclists and motorists need to know to safely share the road.

GIS team members hope that the use of custom-built maps and Story Maps becomes wide spread at UDOT. GIS Manager Frank Pisani believes that using customized maps can lead to better partnering since maps allow people from different disciplines to reference information for a common interest, “GIS is the science of putting features on a map and solving problems,” says Pisani.

For more information about using customized maps and Story Maps, contact UDOT’s GIS team:

Frank Pisani, GIS Manager
Engineering Technology Services
Cell: (801) 633-6258
E-mail: fpisani@utah.gov

Becky Hjelm, GIS Specialist
Cell: (801) 386-4162
Office: (801) 965-4074
E-mail: bhjelm@utah.gov

This post was written by Catherine Higgins of the Project Development division.

UDOT Logo udot.utah.govWith summer fast approaching, we would like to share our top 10 road construction projects for 2013.

While there will not be as many large road projects in 2013, there will still be more than 150 construction projects statewide that will require drivers to plan ahead. This season, we will continue to perform maintenance on our roads and bridges to ensure they remain in good condition and last as long as possible.

We will also use innovative technology to improve traffic flow with the installation of the fifth and sixth diverging diamond interchanges (DDI) as well as the 11th continuous flow intersection (CFI) in the state.

The following is a list of the top 10 projects statewide in 2013:

 

  1. I-80 Drainage Pipe Replacement, Salt Lake County. Crews will install new drainage pipe in Parleys Canyon to replace the existing system. Drivers should expect lane closures throughout the summer. Project completion is estimated for December 2013.
  2. I-15, South Payson Interchange to Spanish Fork River. This summer, crews will work to widen seven miles of pavement and bridges on I-15 from the South Payson Interchange to the Spanish Fork River. Most of the work will take place in the freeway median, and construction is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
  3. Southern Parkway, St. George. The Southern Parkway is a 33-mile project that will eventually become an eastern belt route for Washington County. Currently, eight miles are complete from I-15 to the new St. George Airport. Construction continues this spring and summer to extend the new highway another eight miles.
  4. S.R. 193, Davis County. Crews are extending state Road 193, the Bernard Fisher Highway, from 2000 West (S.R. 108) on 200 South in West Point to 700 South and State Street (S.R. 126) in Clearfield. Work scheduled this spring and summer includes earthwork, utility relocations, drainage and sound wall construction. Temporary road closures or blockages may happen from time to time on local streets and trails.
  5. I-15, St. George Boulevard DDI Interchange Reconfiguration. Reconstruction work will take place on the existing diamond interchange to install southern Utah’s first diverging diamond interchange. Work is expected to begin this summer and finish by the end of the year.
  6. U.S. 89/91 Repaving, Sardine Summit to S.R. 23, Cache County. The second phase of work continues from last season’s repaving of U.S. Highway 89/91. Maintenance work will take place from Sardine Summit to Wellsville to maintain a smooth road surface and prolong the life of the roadway. Daytime lane closures will be taking place throughout the summer.
  7. I-15, 1100 South (U.S. 91) DDI Interchange, Brigham City. Work to build the first diverging diamond interchange in northern Utah will begin this summer on the I-15 and 1100 South interchange in Brigham City. Traffic may be redirected around the project throughout its duration, but crews will work to minimize delays. This project is expected to be complete next summer.
  8. U.S. 89 Improvements, Orem to Pleasant Grove. Crews will make several improvements to State Street between Orem and Pleasant Grove this summer. The road will be widened to seven lanes, repaved with new asphalt, and upgraded with curb, gutter and new sidewalks in various locations. The project will improve traffic flow and reduce congestion in the area. Drivers should expect minor traffic delays due to lane restrictions.
  9. Bangerter Highway, 13400 South CFI Installation, Salt Lake County. Construction of a new continuous flow intersection (CFI) on Bangerter Highway at 13400 South will improve the flow of traffic in this fast-growing section of the Salt Lake Valley. Lane restrictions will occur throughout the project but will take place during non-commute and nighttime hours. Construction will be completed this year.
  10. I-215 Maintenance, S.R. 201 to North Temple, Salt Lake City. A heavily traveled section of I-215 will undergo concrete repair this summer for approximately two months with occasional lane and ramp closures. Work will take place during overnight and non-commute hours to minimize delays.

We are committed to continually looking for new opportunities to proactively communicate with the public about our projects. The following are available tools to plan ahead and stay informed about our projects:

  • “UDOT Traffic” App — The UDOT Traffic app delivers critical traffic information directly to drivers by incorporating the best and most up-to-date information from the UDOT Traffic Operations Center, including real-time traffic conditions, construction alerts, crash information and road weather conditions. The app now features TravelWise alerts, which provide us with a direct way to communicate with drivers at critical times. The alerts proactively communicate major traffic incidents, event traffic warnings, weather-related road conditions, construction and air quality information so drivers can plan ahead, reduce delays and arrive safely at their destinations. UDOT Traffic is free and available for download in the Apple App Store and Android Market for tablets and phones.
  • Interactive UDOT Traffic Website — The website features an interactive map identifying the locations of UDOT projects statewide. Additional information is provided for each project, including the construction schedule, expected travel delays and the project benefits. The website can be accessed from www.udot.utah.gov.
  • UDOT’s Twitter Account — Follow UDOT’s Twitter feed at twitter.com/UtahDOT to receive regular updates on road construction and traffic conditions.
  • 2013 Road Construction Guide - The guide is available for download and includes a list of the 10 most significant projects.

Starting today a new emergency alert system is in place to notify drivers of major traffic delays and road closures.

UDOT will issue the first TravelWise alert this morning in advance of the Salt Lake City Marathon. TravelWise alerts push critical traffic information directly to the public via the UDOT Traffic app, freeway message boards and social media.

With these new alerts, UDOT can directly communicate with drivers at critical times, including major traffic incidents, event traffic warnings, weather-related road conditions, construction and air quality information. Now drivers will be better able to plan ahead, reduce delays and arrive safely at their destinations.

Generated by the UDOT Traffic Operations Center, TravelWise alerts will only be issued for incidents deemed “critical,” such as crashes causing multiple lane closures, severe delays due to heavy event traffic or construction, low air quality days and significant storms.

The alerts will give drivers information to avoid delays, such as alternate routes in the event of a traffic incident or suggested times to leave home or work to avoid a major storm in the middle of the commute.

“UDOT is committed to continually using innovative ways to keep traffic moving,” Acting UDOT Executive Director Carlos Braceras said. “This new tool will help the department quickly provide critical traffic information directly to drivers and will help UDOT work in providing information as effectively as possible.”

For Saturday’s marathon, UDOT is warning drivers to plan for delays from local road closures and heavy congestion from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. Areas to avoid include 500 East, Van Winkle Expressway, Holladay Boulevard and Sugar House Park. For complete information, including road closure times and to review the route map, visit http://bit.ly/13l3Unw.

The best way to receive these new alerts is by downloading or updating the UDOT Traffic app for your smartphone or tablet. Alerts will also be distributed on freeway message boards, Twitter (@UtahDOT), and the UDOT Traffic website, udottraffic.utah.gov.

Hotel on 24th Street in Ogden

Hotel on 24th Street in Ogden

Elizabeth Giraud has a very interesting job. She likes old things. Especially old buildings and bridges. She is UDOT’s only architectural historian. Elizabeth’s job is to look at every bridge and every building 45 years or older that may be impacted by our projects.

In the course of her day, Elizabeth often comes across some pretty cool stuff. Like the old hotel on 24th Street in Ogden that was in the Chevy Chase movie “Fletch.” Then there’s that old warehouse off the side of I-15 in American Fork. You might never even give it a second glance, but it likely determined the path of the freeway.

Elizabeth’s job is so cool, in fact, that she was featured in a Salt Lake Tribune story by Tom Wharton. Take a look. You might get a little history lesson.

You can also learn more about the Pre-war Bridge Survey mentioned in the article in a previous blog post.

John Cahoon House

The Cottonwood Environmental Assessment completed in 2012 looked at ways to improve connectivity between 4500 South and Vine Street west of State Street. The John Cahoon House in the photo was built in 1900 and was part of the study area

Chair and stuffed gorrilla removed from I-15 in Orem.

UDOT crews removed this chair and stuffed gorilla from I-15 in Orem.

Legislators passed this past March HB 328 S1. This bill increases the fines for littering on a highway and increases the fines for failing to secure a load while operating a vehicle on a highway.  Previously, a person could be fined no less than $100 for littering or not securing a load. This has been increased to no less than $200. The fine for a second or subsequent violation within three years of a previous violation also increased from $250 to $500.

The fine for violators operating a commercial vehicle also increased with this bill. Previously, a person could be fined no less than $250 for littering or not securing a load. This has been increased to no less than $500. A second or subsequent violation also increased from $500 to $1,000.

Under this bill a vehicle may not be operated or moved on any highway unless the vehicle is constructed or loaded to prevent its contents from dropping, sifting, leaking, or otherwise escaping. A vehicle carrying trash or garbage shall have a covering over the entire load. A vehicle carrying dirt, sand, gravel, rock fragments, pebbles, crushed base, aggregate, any other similar material, or scrap metal shall have a covering over the entire load unless:

  • the highest point of the load does not extend above the top of any exterior wall or sideboard of the cargo compartment of the vehicle; and
  • the outer edges of the load are at least six inches below the top inside edges of the exterior walls or sideboards of the cargo compartment of the vehicle.

Unsecured loads are dangerous, not just for drivers but for Utah Highway Patrol Officers who must remove items that have fallen off vehicles. Officers and drivers have been killed from debris on roads and freeways, left by negligent vehicle operators.

Currently, it costs Utah $1.8 million dollars to clear trash from state roadways, money that could spent on maintenance or construction projects. In the coming year signage displaying the new fines for litter will be placed along Utah roadways. Money from fines will be split between the Utah Highway Patrol for litter blitzes, and the Utah Department of Transportation for education and public awareness on the dangers of littering and not securing loads.

What makes a great leader? We’re lucky here at UDOT because we have many individuals to turn to for inspiration but today we honored one in particular. “A leader, a lot of the time, isn’t the person who thinks of them self as a leader, but they act that way and it is a natural attribute. A leader sets a vision, sets a goal and then they focus on the people to see how to make them successful,” Interim Director Carlos Braceras explained. One such leader is our 2012 Leader of the Year Tamy Scott.

Tamy Scott, her husband and UDOT leaders Ahmad Jaber, Chad Sheppick and Carlos Braceras

Tamy was joined by her husband and UDOT leaders to celebrate being named 2012 Leader of the Year.

Tamy has been with the Motor Carrier Division for 27 years and has been supervisor of the Investigator Unit for the last seven. Tamy supervises nine employees, in both Salt Lake City and St. George, who are responsible for ensuring motor carrier safety regulation compliance.

You might think that it is difficult to supervise employees in different parts of the state but Tamy has found ways to keep her team a cohesive group. This is demonstrated by their willingness to help one another out, “it is not uncommon to witness several individuals helping with a large carrier review or when someone has had personal challenges and has fallen behind,” Tamy’s nomination acknowledged.

Tamy is not just a supervisor with her team, she is also willing to do the jobs she asks her employees to do. Most of her time with the Department has been with the safety investigation area so she understands the important role this group has. “She is willing to do the work herself and allow [her employees] to watch and learn.” She also uses this one-on-one interaction to develop future training for the group.

Her selfless leadership style was exemplified in her remarks following the leader of the year announcement. “I’m humbled by this,” Tamy began. “The motor carrier team has made our division look so good and the investigators work so well together and I’ve had such good leaders in front of me.”

Congratulations Tamy from all of us throughout the Department!

April 2nd, 2013

2012 Leader of the Year Nominees

No Comments, Employee Focus, by Becky Parker.

UDOT Logo udot.utah.govA couple of weeks ago I posted a list of nominees for employee of the year and you know what helps employees succeed? Great leaders! Tomorrow we will honor the following individuals and announce the 2012 Leader of the Year. The nominees include:

  • Dan Betts — Region Two Maintenance
  • Jared Duke — Region Three Maintenance
  • Brent Laulusa — Administration Comptroller’s Office
  • AJ Rogers — Region Four Maintenance
  • Tamy Scott — Operations Motor Carrier Division
  • Rodney Terry — Region One Project Management
  • Katy Warren — Project Development Preconstruction

Congratulations to all of these nominees, we appreciate the example you set everyday.

Northbound I-15 near Paragonah 80 mph speet limit sign

Existing 80 mph zone on northbound I-15 near Paragonah. Photo taken by Ming Jiang of the Traffic and Safety Division.

A number of bills passed by the legislature this past session affect Utah roads and highways. One of these bills was HB 83: Speed Limit Amendments. This bill expands portions of I-15, I-80, and I-84 where the Utah Department of Transportation may establish a posted speed limit that exceeds 75 miles per hour. These sections of freeway include, portions of I-15 from Santaquin to St. George and from Brigham City to the Utah-Idaho border. Portions of I-80 potentially affected will be from Grantsville to the Utah-Nevada border and I-84 from Tremonton to the Utah-Idaho border.

If the Department of Transportation chooses to increase the speed limit in these sections the department will evaluate the results and impacts of increasing the speed limit and will report the findings of the evaluation to the Transportation Interim Committee no later than one year after the speed limit is posted.

This bill continues a process which began a number of years ago to evaluate some of Utah’s interstates to determine if there are areas that could appropriately accommodate speed limits above what is currently posted.

Opponents of this bill feared that with an 80 mile per hour speed limit there would be an increase in accidents and that drivers would increase their speed beyond 90 miles an hour. Through the studies conducted over the past few years the department has found that this is not the case.

Beginning in 2008, studies were conducted on portions of I-15, where the speed limit was increased from 75 to 80 mph. The studies concluded that most drivers preferred to drive between 82 and 83 mph regardless of the posted speed limit. Accident rates on these stretches of freeway were also studied and concluded that the increased speed did not affect the number of accidents or fatalities.

March 28th, 2013

Farewell to Director John Njord

No Comments, Employee Focus, by Becky Parker.

John Njord Farewell AddressEmployees gathered in the Calvin Rampton Atrium and via video conference at offices around the state to hear John’s final farewell. He began by mentioning the major accomplishments we’ve seen over the past 12 years during his time as director. These accomplishments include the 2002 Winter Olympics, new procurement methods such as design-build and CMGC, bridge moves and innovative interchanges and intersections. “We’re not just using best practices we’re establishing new best practices here at the Department of Transportation,” John explained.

John continued his farewell with a list of things he will miss, most of which included interactions with employees. “I will miss friendships that I’ve developed over 25 years with the Department … I’m going to miss that more than anything.” While leaving is difficult, John is looking forward to time with his family. His plans include motorcycle trips on the very roads he has spent so many years being responsible for.

Governor Herbert and John NjordIn closing John voiced his optimism for the Department’s future. He has no concerns that the work won’t progress in his absence instead his hope is that each employee will come to realize that the accomplishments over that last 12 years are their own. “In reality you really didn’t need me to be here at all, and when you discover that … it’s at that point in time I will know that I have been successful.”

Following John’s speech employees lined up for an opportunity to say goodbye and express their appreciation for his leadership. Governor Gary Herbert and Lieutenant Governor Greg Bell  joined the well-wishers and presented John with a declaration naming March 28, 2013 John R. Njord Day in Utah.

A video of John’s speech is available on UDOT’s YouTube channel.